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Are You Monitoring Your Kids' Phone?

If the answer is no, our guest blogger, Officer Rich Marsh of Woodbury, CT, offers some reasons why monitoring is a good idea.

Here we are, already near the end of October, and the year continues to fly by. Did you know that October is Bullying Prevention month? While it’s great to raise awareness during the month of October, bullying is something that I think we should be paying attention to year-round.

Bullying is Different Today

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2019, about 20.2% of students reported being bullied. If you look at more recent studies, many of them have the 2022 bullying percentage up over 40%. The fact of the matter is that kids are bullying other kids and thanks to technological advancements, we have made it easier than ever for them to do so.

If you go back to the late 80’s and early 90’s, (when I grew up), the bully was restricted to saying something to the person’s face and therefore there was always a risk of a sudden punch to the face in retaliation. Bullying during this time also included exclusion from certain activities or friend groups and it was generally restricted to certain times, usually before, during and shortly after school. A child being bullied during that time period would generally have a reprieve in the bullying when they were home, a good break in order to recover from the day’s stressors.

But, now let’s move to the 2000s when the internet was taking off and social media was being introduced to our children. This removed the element of fear for the bully because they could say what they wanted and hide behind their phone or keyboard.

While there was still the same type of in-person bullying happening as in time periods before, kids today are subject to bullying almost constantly through social media and cellular phones.

The same kids that are being excluded from activities in school are being shown what they are missing out on as they scroll through social media posts and watch live streams from activities. Kids today very rarely get a break from their bullies.

What Can Parents Do?

One question I get asked a lot is, “what apps are being used for bullying?” The answer is a simple one, MOST OF THEM. If the app can be used to send a message, post a picture, post a video, post a story, or ask a question, then the app can, and probably is, being used for bullying. This includes social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, messaging apps like KIK and WhatsApp among dozens of others, “honesty apps” like TBH, Whisper, and, chat and video apps like Discord, Twitch, or YouTube among hundred of many other possible apps that your kids are likely using.

The other question that I get asked a lot is “what can I do to prevent this from happening to my child?” This answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one. First, let's assume your child is the one being bullied. One of the first things we tell our children is to ignore it, so there is one option. The other option is to block the people on the particular app that the bullying is occurring on. Another option would be to just delete the app altogether. Problem solved, right? Well not exactly. There are ways around being blocked such as just creating another username, or having someone else in the friend group start the bullying, or to just start the bullying on another app. This is where the school may need to be made aware and become involved. The last option, after getting the school involved, is to report to the local police department. Doing this is not without potential frustration, however, as many police departments are reluctant to take on bullying complaints. This generally has to do with the belief by police departments that bullying issues should be handled by the school and the discipline administered by the school.

Monitor the Apps!

There is something else that I recommend to all parents regardless of whether their child is the victim or the suspect of bullying and that is to have a good monitoring app on your child’s phone. Being in the business I am in, I cannot recommend or endorse one product on the market, but what I tell parents is do your homework on the monitoring apps that are out there. Some of them may not monitor the apps that your child is using, or they may not monitor the type of activities you are looking to monitor. Do your homework!!

Three things I would look for in a monitoring app would be:
  1. The monitoring app should have the ability to monitor keystrokes. This could be the most important thing to look for because keystrokes are everything your child is putting into their phone. This would include passwords for apps, internet searches that are done in incognito mode, and text messages.

  2. The monitoring app should be able to track activity on popular social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Kids look at a lot of things on Instagram and Snapchat and they have the ability to see things that may not be age appropriate so it would be a good idea to be able to track their access on these apps.

  3. The monitoring app should be user friendly and have good customer service. Generally, you should read the reviews for the particular monitoring app that you are about to purchase because if it isn’t easy to install or easy to locate the information that you are trying to track then it is not serving its purpose. Don’t forget that it also may take a combination of monitoring apps and other security features to get the desired level of monitoring. A good place to start is always with your cellular phone company. Oftentimes, most major cellular phone companies have some built in family-safe technology that you can access as well, usually for free.

All parents should be monitoring their children’s phones. Think about it this way, when your child was growing up, or even think back to when you were growing up, our parents would prescreen certain movies before we watched them. They may have even listened in on our telephone conversations with our friends. But now we give our children a very powerful device that has access to all of the things in this world that can do so much harm to our kids and we just let them access it all without checking in on what they are doing.

To sum this all up, your child may be in one of three groups, the bully, the bullied, or a bystander. Your child may be too nervous to speak to you about it regardless of which group they’re in. It is your job to be aware of the things that your child is accessing on their phone, and to address the issues that you have with certain activities.

So yes, it is October and that means another awareness month, but don’t let Bullying Awareness just slip away into November to be forgotten about like many other awareness months.


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